"Eat Betoyne and Mynts prepared in honey, use herbs grace in thy Wine."
April, Ram's Little Dodoen, 1606.
Mint takes its name from Minthe, who was loved by Pluto. This nymph was metamorphosed by Pluto's wife, Prosperine, with the herb called after her. Henry Dethicke, in the Gardener's Labyrinth, gives some curious advice to the gardener who cannot procure the garden mint. "Let him plant the seed of the wild mint, setting the sharper ends of the seeds downwards, whereby to tame and put away the wildness of them."
In France mint was called "Menthe de Notre Dame," and in Italy "Erbe Santa Maria." The cultivated herb is said to have been introduced into England by the Romans. All the different varieties have the quality of preventing milk from curdling, and for this reason herbalists recommend them to people who are put on to a milk diet. Formerly they were one of the herbs strewn in churches, and they were also used in baths.
Culpepper records the curious old belief that if a wounded man eats mint he will never recover, and it is a superstition which has not quite died out that mint must never be cut with an instrument of iron.
All the mints except Corn-mint like moisture. Catmint will grow anywhere. To have early mint make a small hotbed in January with two feet of manure with six inches of good earth on top. Plant the roots closely. They will be up in about a fortnight. If only a small quantity is required plant a few roots in pots and give bottom heat. Forced roots decay rapidly, and are useless after the leaves have been taken.
Mintes put into milk, it neyther suffereth the same to curde, nor to become thick, insomuch that layed in curded milke, this would bring the same thinne againe.
The Good Housewife's Handmaid, 1588.
To MAKE SYRUP OF MINT.
Take a quart of the Syrup of Quinces before they are full ripe, juice of mint two quarts, an ounce of Red Roses, steep them twenty-four hours in the juices then boil it till it is half wasted, strain out the remainder and make it into a syrup with double refined sugar.
From The Receipt Book of John Nott, Cook to the Duke of Bolton, 1723.
Take a good quantity of mint, pennyroyal and balm. Steep them in canary or the lees of it for twentyfour hours. Stop them up close and stir them now and then. Distil them in an alembick with a quick fire, sweetening it with sugar in your receiver.
Take Pepper-mint six handfuls, cut it a little, and infuse it two Days in six quarts of clean Spirit; then draw it off in a cold Still, marking every Bottle, as it fills, with a number, for the first Bottle will be far the strongest, the second less strong, and the third weaker than the second; and so as we draw off more, they will be still weaker till at last it becomes almost insipid, and somewhat sourish, but take none of that; then cover the mouth of your Bottles with Papers prick'd full of Holes, and let them stand a Day or two; then pour your first Bottle into a large earthen glaz'd Pan; and to that the second, and then the third, and the fourth, and so on, till by mixing they all become of a sufficient strength; then put them in Bottles with a knob or two of double refin'd Loaf-Sugar, and cork them close. This is an incomparable pleasant Dram, tasting like Ice, or Snow in the mouth, but creates a fine warmth in the stomach, and yields a most refreshing flavour. This sort of Mint is hard to be met with; but is lately cultivated in some Physick Gardens at Mitcham; it must be kept well weeded, and the Top of the bed where it grows must, when we cut it, be pricked up a little, with a small Fork, or the earth made fine with a Trowel, because the Runners of this sort of Mint, shoot along the surface of the ground, and so at the joints, strike root, which is contrary to other sorts of Mint, which shoot their Runners under ground.
R. Bradley, The Country Housewife's and Lady's Director, 1732.
A pint of boiling water poured on the young leaves and flowering tops.